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The Fiqh of Travelling

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From Dr Mufti Abdur-Rahman Mangera’s ‘Fiqh of Travel' (found in the last chapter of Huma’s Travel Guide to Palestine).

Below is an adaptation of the section on the key rulings related to travel.

Q: Who is a musafir?
A: The person who sets out with the intention of eventually travelling approximately 48 miles/77 km is regarded as a musafir. The moment he passes the boundaries of his town or city he becomes a musafir, but not while still within.

Q: Is the airport considered part of ‘my city’?
A: If the airport is within the boundaries of the city, it falls under the rule of the city and the person is not considered a musafir when he reaches it. In large metropolises such as London, Chicago and Toronto, each borough can be considered independent in its own right for travel purposes and thus the airports will generally be considered outside one’s city.

Q: Which rulings apply specifically to a musafir?
A: A number of legal rulings apply to a musafir. One can wipe over their leather socks for up to 72 hours, prayers can be shortened, one can pray Zuhr in place of the Jumu’ah and one can forgo fasting if it will be difficult and make the fast up later.

Q: Do I have to shorten my prayers?
A: A musafir is required to perform only 2 rak’ahs for the fard prayers of Zuhr, Asr and Isha. Fajr remains to be 2 rak’ahs and maghrib remains as normal.
If a person mistakenly performed 4 rak’ahs instead of 2, and he had sat down for tashahhud in the second, then his prayer is valid and the first 2 are regarded as his fard and the other 2 as nafl. If he remembers in the final rak’ah, he should make sajdat as-sahw. If he did not sit in the second rak’ah then all 4 rak’ahs become nafl and he will have to repeat his fard prayer.

Q: Can I pray in a car?
A: It is not permissible to perform a fard prayer while seated in a car. One should stop at a safe place and pray on the ground outside or under a shelter. However, it would be permissible to pray in a vehicle such as a large van in which one can stand and pray while stationary.

Q: How do I pray in a plane or train?
A: One should try their utmost to stand and pray. On longer flights this is usually possible as the aircrafts are larger and there is normally a galley area in the middle or at the back of the plane that is not always occupied. The attendants are often accommodating as long as it is not mealtime when there is a lot of rush and the galleys are occupied. Do not be shy to ask them.

Q: How do I know which way to pray?
A: Working out the direction to pray is relatively easy. If the flight displays a route map on their entertainment system, then that should help one determine the direction by looking to see where the western coast of Arabia is. Otherwise, one can look at the route map in the inflight magazine and determine the direction to Makkah from it. You can also ask one of the attendants for assistance.

Q: What if I cannot stand and pray due to safety concerns or limited space?
A: In such situations one can pray seated, facing in whichever direction the plane is facing. Then repeat the prayer when you reach your destination.
The rule here is that wherever other people prevent you from discharging one of the fundamental elements of prayer, pray anyway and then repeat it afterwards. However, if natural causes prevent you from observing a fundamental element, for example being unable to stand due to dizziness or illness, or the swaying of a ship, the prayer is complete and need not to be repeated.

Q: How long will I remain a musafir?
A: A person remains a musafir and continues offering 2 rak’ahs for 4 rak’ah prayers until he forms a definite intention to remain in a place for 15 days or more, at which point he becomes a muqim (resident). Therefore, those intending to stay in a place for more than 14 days cannot shorten the prayers and are considered as residents.

Q: What should I do if I’m not certain how long I will stay?
A: Someone who is unsure of how long they will stay, with plans contingent upon certain work being done for example, shortens their prayer indefinitely until a firm intention is made to stay for 15 days or more.

Thus, if a person stops in a place intending to stay for 3 or 4 days and then is unable to leave the following day, or within 14 days or less, and continues like this for 1 or more months, he remains a musafir.

If at any point he forms a firm intention to stay for 15 days, he becomes a muqim even if he subsequently leaves within a few days.


Insha'Allah next we will go over rulings related to wiping on leather socks, an overlooked sunnah which provides ease and convenience whilst travelling. 


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